Stealing many good ideas from the thread, here is my humble vision for the "hyperspace" system.
There is a network of wormholes. This network allow instant travel from a given location within a system to another given location in another system. The use is "free", i.e. does not require special items or fuel. One Wormhole is a 1:1 connection.
Systems have 0, 1, 2 or more wormholes, that are "randomly" distributed at the edge of the system. There are systems with many wormholes (8 or 9) that are important hubs, and the network forms therefore clusters around one or more of those hubs with systems 2-3 jumps away, and those clusters are linked to each other with few (usually, one) connections passing possibly through several systems.
The consequences are the following:
- Wormholes are at a given location in-system, thus making blocade or asking payment for jumps possible (pay or be shot), and making logical location for space stations where people meet,
- Not all system have the same trategic importance. A system with many wormholes is strategically very important. But also a system with only 2 wormholes, but linking 2 big hubs may become strategically significant, as it "controls" trade routes between two clusters of well connected systems.
- Clusters of well connected systems are natural and logical boundaries for factions.
- Systems can be "far away" from any significant hub, thus making them somewhat backwards. This explains why prices differences (enabling commerce) exist even with a good transport technology.
- Due to the travel in normal space between wormholes, there is a gameplay potential (attack by ennemy factions, encounters) in the travels.
- Due to the "fixed" location of wormholes in systems, when the locations are known (either by having visited them, or by buying "local cluster maps"), an auto-pilot can bring your ship automatically to any location connected - even with many stops inbetween. Combined with the time acceleration and an option to "pause" game (or at least stop time acceleration) if getting attacked during normal space trips, this remove the "chore" that could represent a long trips with many stops.
- It is possible to discover new natural wormholes (the probability is lower the more "central" a system is). There is a risk involved (e.g. jumping in a system with a supernova that fries your ship on arrival) but the rewards and impact on the universe would be great.
I mentioned systems with zero wormholes... those systems can be joined using artificial and unstable wormholes generated by jumpdrives - an expensive outfit not present on every ship. You need to go far from the star's gravity well and then use high amount of energy to generate the jump (hence a duration to "charge" and the diffiulty to use this "in combat"). The jump leads you to a random location in the target system (albight far from the gravity well, significantly further away then the normal "natural" wormholes).
The target system must be "close" in real space, you cannot jump directly to the other side of the galaxy.
Such artificial wormholes do leave a trace for a certain time and act as magnets for further artifical wormholes. In other words, if a ship jumps this way, it is easy to "follow it" and arrive in a close location in the target system, provided you have the outfit and the energy.
The opening of the artifical wormhole in the desitionation system is a burst of energy, thus readily visible on every scanner/radar.
The consequences are the following:
- There are backdrop systems not connected to clusters. Those may not be inhabited or have lower technology level. There is a possibility that they are linked themselves to an unkown cluster (which is not connected to the other ones).
- The distance from the star and energy signature of artificial jumpholes allow to organise defense when prople jump in at unexpected locations (not in the natural wormhole network). BUT that could be only a ruse to make you send ships to the other side of the system while preparing a massive attack through a natural wormhole (where ships without special engines - so more place for weapons - can join the fray).
- You cannot jump out easily to flee. Because of the energy loading you would have to count with limited acceleration / shield / offensive options for same time. And good equiped pirates could follow you anyway.
- A ferry service (with carriers) as proposed higher may "formalize" such jumpdrive-only connection and allow unequiped ships to make the jump.
It is important to see that this leads to two definition of being "close". Real space, and through the network.
Cluster A and Cluster B may have only a network connection through Clusters C and D (that levies huge taxes for commerce), but have systems that are relatively close in real space, thus allowing direct contact with jumpdrives (within those systems only, thus making those systems "important" even if they are at the edge of their respective clusters) for important goods:
On the other hand Cluster E and F may have a direct connection within the network (which is heavily guarded because they are at war), and be so far away in real space that the cost and complexity of using jumpdrives to make an attack is prohibitively high.
This dual system offers the simple way of organised universe and wormholes for beginners and to build effective "empires" (commercial or military), while leaving a room for explorers and going outside and giving a good physical explanation for having low tech (or unvisited) locations "close" to civilized clusters - it's not worth the effort as a connection though jumpdrives does not allow for "bulk" commerce (only niche) due to costs.
added ferrying to the jumpdrive.[/edit]